Microsofts forthcoming Visual Studio .Net development suite, especially its Enterprise Architect edition, will refocus developers efforts and expectations more than any previous generation of programming tools or application design/maintenance systems. Yes, I know that this is lofty, sweeping praise, but most of the discussion about this long-awaited package has focused on Internet technologies rather than e-business processes. What makes Visual Studio .Net most important is not its technical framework for XML-based Web services but its high-level support for helping developers turn that potential into actual e-business benefits.
If you believe the Web is about data access, then Visual Studios Object Role Modeling tools and interactive, data-driven business rule generation aids will make you wonder why database design has been so hard. Providing example data to the Fact Editor, a designer can review and revise its logical conjectures as to applicable rules (for example, "a category may have more than one product, but no product can have more than one category"). The interactive English-like and diagram- based interfaces will not only engage nontechnical managers but also provide bidirectional links with lower-level implementation tools.
If you believe the future of the Web is in diverse clients, especially portable personal and automotive devices rather than fat PCs, then Visual Studios Mobile Internet Toolkit will flatten your barriers to entering this space. In a session with the current beta version, I saw drag-and-drop construction of a Visual Basic application produce a graphical, interactive Web page that was immediately accessible by wireless link from a Pocket PC device. WAP/WML and iMode cHTML clients are also supported.
In the early years of the PC, tools changed dramatically every two years or so. I wonder what fraction of todays active application developers have never seen any tool suite other than Microsofts Visual Studio 97? Theyll have some learning to do.